Recruiting Tool Evaluation: InMail vs. Personal Email

With over 500 million profiles, LinkedIn is the go to place for recruiting.  While it has great information on a candidate’s work history, education, and other information, a LinkedIn profile is missing the most important piece of information for recruiters, the contact information. In lieu of that, recruiters can either use InMail or try to find the candidate’s email elsewhere.

Before we dive deep into the InMail vs. personal email analysis, it is important to cover a recent event.

LinkedIn has conceded that InMail does not perform well and has recently integrated Connectifier with LinkedIn Recruiter Corporate package to include 150 Connectifier credits for personal emails. In announcing the Connectifier addition to the Recruiter Corporate package, LinkedIn stated:

Recruiters typically see up to 50% higher response rates when using both LinkedIn InMail and emails from Connectifier.

InMail vs Personal Email

InMail and personal emails are two ways to reach passive candidates. One of them is preferred by developers and provides improved results to recruiters. Let’s compare InMail to personal email.

One Time Use vs Unlimited Use

InMail is renting the contact for one time use. Personal email is owning that contact for life and being able to use it multiple times.

With InMail, contacting the same candidate six months later for a different role means you must pay again. With personal email, there is zero cost to resend to the candidate. Personal emails are often good for years. Recruiters can grow their candidate database and build relationships. With InMail, LinkedIn, not the sender, owns the relationship.

Cost

With the addition of Connectifier emails, Recruiter Corporate is now $999.99 per month (for the month to month plan) and provides 150 InMail and 150 Connectifier email credits. Lumping these InMail and Connectifier credits together comes out to $3.33 per contact. This is definitely better than the previous Recruiter Corporate plan that was $100 lower, but which had only 150 InMail credits. It also appears that the Recruiter Lite package price has been cut in half from $240 per month (for the month to month plan) to $120. Recruiter Lite still provides 30 InMails.

If InMail is like renting a car for a one time trip, personal emails is like buying the car. Yet by the analysis above, it costs more for an InMail then for a personal email.  In what other situation is it more expensive to rent a car than to buy one?

At $4 for a one time use, InMail is many times more expensive than buying developer profiles with personal emails that can be used many times. Many data vendors will sell profiles with basic information and emails for $1 to $2. If we assume that it will take multiple contacts to reach a candidate, then we need to multiply the InMail $4 by 3 or 4. So its $16 for InMail vs $1 for personal email.

Response Rate Penalties: InMail Purgatory

Your boss may be unhappy if you are not getting a good response rate on normal email outreach, but they certainly are not going to limit how many emails you can send. Not so with InMail. Low response rate results in severe penalties from LinkedIn:

Recruiters must keep their InMail response rate at or above 13% on 100 or more InMail messages sent within a 14-day period. … For any subsequent breach of the threshold, you may be placed in an InMail Improvement Period.

The InMail user who is put into the “InMail Improvement Period” faces double jeopardy. He is not acquiring many candidates through InMail yet LinkedIn is now limiting his InMail activity.

No Open/Click Rate Analytics

Open rate and click rate analysis are the fundamentals of email marketing. Every email service from MailChimp to Marketo provides them. Senders use them to benchmark, do A/B testing, and improve performance.

Recruiters who want to test their InMail messages and optimize for conversion are left flying blind because these rates are unavailable to them. The poor InMail sender who has been put into “InMail Improvement Period” has no tools for improving his rate.

InMail Inaccessibility

Many passive candidates are not on LinkedIn often, so InMail gets forwarded to their personal email. The problem is InMail only forwards an excerpt of the message.

I get LinkedIn messages delivered to my Gmail account, which I check on the go. It’s a big pain to read and respond to InMail because logging into LinkedIn from a phone or tablet isn’t simple or convenient. Most times, I simply defer reading or responding to InMail, which leads to me forgetting the message altogether.

Additionally, some LinkedIn members have opted out from LinkedIn communications and will not get the email notification at all. All this makes InMail less accessible than regular email.

Social Media Not Preferred for Contacting

According to Stack Overflow research, developers overwhelmingly prefer to be contacted about potential jobs through their personal emails. 64% percent prefer personal emails compared to 4% who prefer contact through social media. How much do developers hate to be contacted over social media? Two times more respondents prefer to be called than to be contacted on social media!

InMail vs Personal Email Summary

  • Cost: More economical to buy personal email and profile of candidates than to send out InMail
  • Usage: InMail only good for one use. InMail cannot be saved in ATS, CRM, or database for unlimited future use
  • Open/delivery analytics: No visibility to InMail open and delivery rates. This prevents sender from improving performance
  • Delivery: Excerpt of InMail message sent to user’s personal email. User forced to log in to LinkedIn to read full message
  • Response rate penalty: LinkedIn penalizes InMail users for low response rate
  • Not preferred contact method: Surveys indicate most candidates prefer personal mail over other forms of contact
  • Almost one in four developers are not on LinkedIn
  • Sales connotation: InMail is viewed as a spammy sales outreach

Beyond InMail

LinkedIn is often the first place for recruiters because it’s convenient for reviewing the work history of a large number of candidates. Problem is you may not be connected to the candidates on LinkedIn.

Until now, if you cannot find their personal email or connect with them on other social networks, you’re left with LinkedIn InMail, even when it’s not the best choice. But not anymore.

There are a number of great services that offer personal emails of candidates, each with its own pros and cons. developerDB offers personal emails of candidates and is one of the few services focusing exclusively on tech recruiting. The developerDB database includes tech skill rankings and personal emails for 8.4M developers.

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